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Testimony of parent whose son committed suicide [1 of 4] after attending the Ark. Gov.'s School
American Family Association of Arkansas ^ | 1992 | Shelvie Cole

Posted on 09/25/2002 11:51:24 AM PDT by Aquinasfan

Arkansas Governor's School


Testimony of parent whose son committed suicide after attending AGS.

Given before Joint Interim Education Committee

(One of four known former AGS students who committed suicide)

My name is Shelvie Cole. I have much to say, and I will talk as quickly as I can. I think once I get started you will understand why I have a lot to say. The first thing I would like to say is I am not a religious zealot. I do not belong to the religious right, and I am not conservative in my beliefs. The reason I am saying this is because anytime anyone seems to have a negative comment toward the Governor's School, they are automatically categorized into one of those groups, somehow negating their comments.

I am speaking to you today as a professional and as parent. As a professional, I am a trained school psychologist. I have worked over twenty years in the field of education and mental health. As a parent, my youngest son, Brandon, attended Governor's School in the summer of 1990. In September of 1991 Brandon committed suicide. I find it very significant that it was three years ago today that Brandon committed suicide.

I had no idea the impact that Governor's School had on Brandon until I read his log after his death. I knew that he had begun to change; but then when I began reading his log, I understood some of the things that had gone on within Brandon that were the result of some of his experiences at Governor's School. I am not going to be \giving you a second hand information today. I am going to let Brandon talk for himself because I am going to read directly from his diary that he kept while he was in Governor's School.

One of my concerns about Governor's School is the way it is set up. I understood or I thought when Brandon attended - he was a very talented student - A/B student, well grounded, played on the tennis team, president of his computer club. He did not have emotional problems. He was the ideal son. By the way, my oldest son, Hank, is here with me for moral support.

When he was selected as a musical student, I understood or thought he would go and spend the majority of his time studying music, being exposed to composers, having experiences with other outstanding music instructors, and spending a lot of time with students who had similar likes. Some of that did occur.

During the six weeks of Governor's School the students are really encouraged to disassociate themselves from the outside world. That in itself has its effect on students. A friend of mine who was in the Marine Corps said that it reminded him of boot camp when they separate young men from their parents and their friends so that they can get them thinking in a military way.

Brandon's words: "We truly have been plucked out of our world. We live in the Governor's School world. I saw a newspaper the other day and realized how no outside events were talked about here. I don't think I will be able to leave after this is over. Let me warn you I am changing inside. I hope you will still like me as I am, but I am learning a new outlook on life and reality. Everyday activities are so trivial now to us here. I feel sorry for people who aren't here. The outside world is so blind toward world events."

A letter to a friend said, "I think I saw your grandparents at the Human Development Centers Fireworks Show. We actually got to go out in public and go over there. Missy, [who is his friend] and I saw a friend there and stopped to talk to her. Someone from Governor's School saw us and told us, 'you are not to socialize with anyone while you're here.' Can you believe that?"

His final entry in the log says, Governor's School helped me to separate myself from most of the people around me. This absence of being who I was known for gave me a chance to look inside of my real self. After I came back from the break, my friends and I could tell that we had suddenly been transformed into free thinkers. I was no longer worried about who was having the next party or who was going out with whom. I feel like I've awakened from a fourteen year sleep."

These are my words: There's a false sense of security in Brandon's statement because when he completed Governor's School he doubted friendships and support he had had most of his life. And he questioned values and relationships that in the past had been extremely important to him. But most of all he began to question himself. He was told so many times at Governor's School that he was going to change during his time spent thee that he felt that if he didn't change he would fail to be a part of what was expected of participants.

After these students have severed the links with their lifetime friends and family, they are sent back i8nto the real world with no follow up and means of support to help them as they continue their quest to discover who they are after this change.

Even though the Governor's School is under the umbrella of the Department of Education, no one in the department seems to be responsible for overseeing the curriculum of seems to have any say as to what materials are used while they are there.

Bruce Haggard, a biology professor at Hendrix College, is the director of Governor's School. When my husband and I discussed our concerns two years ago, we questioned why it is necessary to have articles included in the students' text, The Tree Book like the one on "The Morality of Homosexuality". Dr. Haggard acted as if he was unaware of such an article, but we found out later that the article has been and continues to be a part of the curriculum.

Then there's Areas II and III , and I think that's what you are going to hear today, what most of the parents are concerned about.

This is how Brandon described the Governor's School experience. He said, "We have Area I class twice a day. This class is for what you were accepted in. Then everyone has Area II and III. Area II is where they try to get you to state something you believe in and then they rip you apart until you don't agree with yourself anymore.

"Then everyone has Area III. Here everyone cries and tells sad stories about themselves. Here everything you deal with is so deep. They encourage us to open up and say anything. In Area III one girl stood up and told the instructor to f--- off. The instructor just smiled and said, ' Why do you feel that way?' Can you believe that?"

Another letter he wrote said that, "We have Area II class where the object is to state something you believe in, and they reverse the way we feel totally. In Area III everyone listens to your problems; we've realized that life is not real, life is just a dream. Things like chairs and tables, numbers, trees, World War II, etc., die not or do not exist. Here they want you to relax and question the meaning of life."

He wrote this letter to a friend while in Governor's School. He said, "Robin, (who was his best friend since first grade) came and visited me on visitor's day last week. It was good to see her but everything she talked about was so trivial. We learn her things like the fact that we may not really be here. Do we have a soul? Do we create reality or does reality create us? Governor's School has really changed me."

"Area II is where you argue whether or not you are really here, why we're here and things like that. Then in Area II and III, we find out who we really are inside. Everyone cries and spills their guts to our group."

This is me talking. These classes are being taught like philosophy classes and psychotherapy groups. In my opinion the staff members who lead these discussions are not qualified to deal with such issues. If they were employed by our public school, they would not be allowed to conduct classes such as these because they lack the appropriate training to do so.

For instance, I met with Area II and Area III faculty a summer ago to discuss suicidal tendencies of Gifted and Talented students. The faculty was made up of two college level language teachers, an assistant junior high principal, a freelance songwriter, and English teacher, and a Presbyterian minister and a high school Gifted and Talented teacher. If we are going to continue to have these types of discussions as part of the curriculum, I feel the least that we can assure parents is that those who would lead the discussions would have the credentials to indicate that they have the training and the expertise to do so. The same credentials and requirements that we adhere to in the public schools should be the same standards at Governor's School.

If Governor's School continues, which I hope it does, and if it continues to be supported by taxpayers' dollars, then every taxpayer in the state should feel reassured that if their child attends Governor's School they have the same safeguards regarding curriculum and credentials of the faculty as they would in the public school district. If this is not the case, then Governor's School should receive its funding from another source and not be under the umbrella of the Department of Education.

I would like to close by reading you the first entry into Brandon's log, and then I will read one that was written three weeks later. This is the first one: "Moms are the best people around, and my mom is the best mom on earth. As a child she cuddled me and showed me the way like a guardian angel watching my moves, supporting me through times of confusion and lifting me off the floor of desperation. My mom is great!"

Three weeks later, three weeks later this is what Brandon wrote, "My mom is so closed minded I feel like we will have a standoff soon over issues. She doesn't see people for who they are, only for the way they act."

I had to ask myself what could happen during a young person's life during three short weeks to make such a drastic change in his attitude toward a parent, and I think it is a question you need to ask yourselves today. Thank you.

[This parent stated in another interview on video that she had not even seen her son during those three weeks.]

End of Testimony

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: arkansas; catholiclist; clinton; education; governorschool; governorsschool; governorsschools; suicide
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To: dead
Same here. You can only take so much of this at a time.
21 posted on 09/25/2002 1:10:29 PM PDT by Slip18
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To: aimhigh
May this program be obliterated.
22 posted on 09/25/2002 1:12:33 PM PDT by Hila
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To: lepton
And who do they think they are, being intolerant of other's beliefs?
23 posted on 09/25/2002 1:14:20 PM PDT by Hila
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To: lepton
And who do they think they are, being intolerant of other's beliefs?
24 posted on 09/25/2002 1:17:16 PM PDT by Hila
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To: inflorida
The perpetrators of such re-education tactics must be stopped. They are into bondage and don't know how to respect people's choices. The true intolerant and base are these "free thinkers" - free to think junk. They must be stopped in New York and everywhere they try to pollute our generations.
25 posted on 09/25/2002 1:28:33 PM PDT by Hila
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To: ladylib
My child read "The Giver", but in Middle School. I read it at that time too. It is really an excellent book. It is about Utopia, but when the "Giver" is relating all of history to his successor (a 13 yr old), the point is well made, that this is, in fact, no Utopia. I would highly recommend this book.
26 posted on 09/25/2002 1:28:35 PM PDT by baseballmom
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To: Aquinasfan
Yegads! Thankfully it isn't that way here in Big Orange Country. I know some folks who did TN Gov school and enjoyed it, all of them utterly unchanged. I was at the university at the same time, but with a different program.

That thing, though, sounds like a monstrosity. I imagine that one could have fun if one didn't mind being tossed out... :)
27 posted on 09/25/2002 1:37:26 PM PDT by Constantine XIII
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To: Aquinasfan
Governors school in NC turned out to be an outstanding lesson in Civics, Faith, and Patriotism. I was pleased with what my stepson experienced and learned.
28 posted on 09/25/2002 1:39:28 PM PDT by wattsmag2
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To: ladylib
some of this mind bending took place at Columbine -- they had something called "death education" (I've heard about the program in other public schools) where kids visited funeral parlors and wrote their own obituaries.

As a junior in high school, our sociology class went on a field trip to a funeral home (with parental permission of course). For many of us, it was our first time in one. We didn't go to the embalming rooms or anything gross like that, but the funeral home director spoke to us about the evolution of funeral practives over the years, about reverence for the dead and the importance of family in funeral tradition. Not so bad. But yeah, writing your own obituary? That is SO sick!
29 posted on 09/25/2002 1:40:12 PM PDT by Nathan Jr.
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To: wattsmag2
Governors school in NC turned out to be an outstanding lesson in Civics, Faith, and Patriotism. I was pleased with what my stepson experienced and learned.

I'm glad to hear that. My point in posting this story from 1992 was to warn people about the education goals of the Clintons and the education elites (teacher colleges, Dept. of Ed) that think like them.

It is important to note that I have found some first-hand accounts from Governor's School alumni in various states who report similar experiences as those posted above. I urge people to do their own research and draw their own conclusions.

30 posted on 09/25/2002 2:02:54 PM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: Aquinasfan
NC did not have a 6 week affair, BTW. Nor were participants discouraged from communicating with "outsiders". Plus, it is run by the American Legion
31 posted on 09/25/2002 2:14:43 PM PDT by wattsmag2
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To: Aquinasfan

I was there.

I attended Arkansas Governors' School in 1992 when this was written (while X42 was running for Prez the first time). I don't have time to respond to all this right now, but I will say the truth is somewhere in the middle. The whole thing was slanted hard to the left, but it wasn't really brainwashing. Overall, I'd say it was a positive experience, but there were also obvious problems with the way it was structured.

If anyone has any particular questions you want a first-hand account on, fire away.

32 posted on 09/25/2002 2:22:57 PM PDT by Sloth
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To: Aquinasfan
So, why would anyone in their right mind send their kid to school here?
33 posted on 09/25/2002 2:25:03 PM PDT by Former Proud Canadian
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To: ladylib
Really talking to your kids is the key. Any parent who really talks to their kids would not allow a school to alienate them. They would know what was happening.

When my son was in seventh grade, the school brought in a group of players for what they called diversity training. The kids expected it to be on boy on girl sexual harassment, but it was on Gay rights. Anyway the kids were puzzled by the the skits, they really weren't very conscious of homosexuality and were shocked by all the talk. Anyway, during the question and answer period, my son stood up and asked the guy if he was gay and if that is why he was doing this. The guy was stunned and didn't know what to say. But my point is that my son wasn't being converted to lib-think. It ruined the whole session and gave other kids the strength to question, also.
34 posted on 09/25/2002 2:59:00 PM PDT by Eva
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To: baseballmom
I think he should have told the parents in advance. In the article he said he didn't offer his opinion, but let the kids come to their own conclusion. Fourth grade is a little too young for this type of discussion. However, I bet a lot of parents had very interesting conversations around their dinner table with their fourth graders about this book.
35 posted on 09/25/2002 3:14:00 PM PDT by ladylib
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Parent of Governor's School in N. Carolina
August 1994

The following is information which I picked up from a phone conversation I had with a mother in North Carolina. Her daughter attended the Governor’s School in North Carolina from which The Arkansas Governor’s School was patterned. This mother had not seen the Guiding Hand video made by Jeff Botkin, which gave me my first knowledge of the school. She sent me a letter because her daughter had obtained a copy of one of our newsletters which was condemning the school. Apparently someone in Arkansas, I am assuming that it was someone directly connected with AGS, had sent a copy of this newsletter to the school in North Carolina showing them what criticisms were being made about the school in Arkansas. They were evidently using the newsletter to help counter objections either from the students or from others who might object to the school.

3 different campuses

...By the end of the second week she was saying things like, "well she and her dorm mates have decided to basically say we will just say we will go along to get along". And then there was this immediate flip flop in her personality. Then we had some time with her and we asked her to share some of the literature, the types of things she was getting there. We just found them all to be so depressive, morbid. One was about a hanging party for a friend. They were more interested about how it would appear to society than actually hanging the person.

There was more and more. She didn't want to come home to her friends and school. They were not challenging, not intellectual. A total elitist attitude...

They did a personality profile and as a side line to that they gave them this quiz about this defense mechanism. It was a handout called "defense mechanism".

Q. Even though he hires prostitutes and uses pornography, Jimmy Swaggart claims he opposes it _________________what mechanism

Q. Joe has no memory of the time he raped a woman

Q. A young woman might be attracted to a young female but tells herself she hates all lesbians.

This goes on and on and on. 22 of these questions. Everything that I saw had sexual overtones. It’s very morbid. I don't feel that we’re terribly conservative but these questions, I don't understand the connection to education. I just didn't like the sexual overtones that were in every part of this.

I told you about the T-shirt that I saw. Every single one was like that that we saw.

Science students do it with cadavers was one.

The impact was just there.

There was a semi-formal dance where a young man came dressed in full drag with an evening gown, long hair and make up and everything and that was tolerated and accepted. It was no big deal. A nice semiformal event after school. That was certainly inappropriate behavior for that environment.

They had a masquerade party, a dance kind of thing, and she told me about someone came as a "dictator" and what that costumed involved was a potato behind his fly. These are the kinds of things that I'm extremely upset by. I questioned what validity they had when this program was presented as an enrichment program for education. I keep thinking, am I the only parent?

... The paper work said the school started in 1969 by Governor Terry Stanford. It is sponsored by Carnegie. Their money is withdrawn after 3 years.

It's almost as if every point that we have questioned or had a thought of doing they've already planned for it. The director has already said there was a movement afoot to get him ousted. They wanted to put in a good old boy network. So basically he's already said he knows all of these criticisms are there. I don't understand why your newsletter was handed out 3 days before the end of the class. Basically it was done to say, hey we know this is out there, we know this is going to be the criticism.

... One teacher was telling about a friend of his who is a masochist who ended up in the hospital for numerous tortures. What in God's name does that have to do with literature?...

And basically they tell them they are elite. I was particularly interested, I mean your quotes in that newsletter were so much like what I heard from her. She had not seen that newsletter until a couple of days before she was let out of the session so basically everything that was there was something that I heard in one way or another. And the director himself at the end of the session and the other students confirmed this that if anyone asked what went on here just tell them you had fun because they won't get it anyway. I don't want to understand a lot of it. It's just so unbelievable that this kind of thing went on.

I do have a copy of the drama which the school put on. A play called JB which I guess is taken from the Bible. Now you understand that this school attracts THE best students, the most talented. The cover of this play pamphlet looks like the devil himself. I mean I looked at it and it looked like something out of satanic rituals that you see on TV. It was just appalling to me that they couldn't come up with anything better to put on a play bill than this. It was unbelievable and at every turn this is what we are seeing. But we have her T-shirt put away. She is not permitted to wear it. And her whole thing was you have to look past the word and to the underlying meaning.

Well I'm sorry. On her shirt it talked about, I think it started out like there were characters you could choose. You could be the hero, the heroine, the bed or the newly pressed suit. The hero takes the heroine out for the evening. They went to the movies and came back and decided to have sex so he laid her on the bed like a newly pressed suit. And then some intruder breaks in, knocks the hero out and proceeds to rape the female, the heroine. The words of the poem says "and the rape continues for many stanzas." And then it goes on and asks, "which character did you choose? I hope your choice was better than mine and I hope your story ended better than mine.

The director said they couldn't allow the logo to go on the shirt. But what the students could do with the full approval of the director and all of these teachers in her discipline was they could go across town and have as many printed as they wanted. So there was no saying, "no this is definitely not permissible." The poem was a selection from one of their readings that they all voted on. (60 students) That poetry selection was not in the group of papers that she was allowed to bring home. The readings she was allowed to bring home was sort of literary analysis from aristotle. Very okay literature that you would normally find in most English classes in college. However, of all the other short stories and all of these other poetry, there were no copies to be brought home. And I just don't understand. It's in every Governor's school. I know kids who have attended others and they say they are a little off the wall. When I mentioned something about strictly academics this parent said, "I didn't see that much in the English area. I don't know who was in charge there. I just didn't get the sense that there were any adults who were really in charge. They just sort of allowed these kids to be totally free. I know my daughter will be off to school in a couple of years but the concentration of this garbage was so intense. They didn't have access to anything outside, not even television. I saw a change at the two week mark. Before that she was like, "gosh, you know I can't go along with this kind of stuff. It makes no sense. It's not what I thought it would be." In two weeks it was "well my friends and I have decided to get along or go along" and at that point it was just a total difference. Even though we saw her, even though we are extremely close there was a wall between us. I'm just glad we went every day and that I persisted in talking with her because she really didn't want to talk about it. Finally we had a discussion all night long one night and at 3:30 in the morning she said to me "I see now why you're concerned."

I didn't like the fact that they said the friends couldn't come to visit. My daughter has a strong circle of friends here and when she came back it was like they didn't matter. She wasn't interested in her school and yet she has been involved in government there at her school. She has been top of her class. She has been involved in outside programs and all of a sudden she didn't want to come back to that. My daughter is very strong and I'm thankful for that but I seriously wonder about some of the others.

After I showed my co-workers this, because we felt it was such an honor that she was selected and it's written up in the paper and it's promoted as if it is a very special honor, they were all very proud of the kids that went. I took this in and I said this is what we are paying for. This is what the tax dollars are paying for. And this is what went on. One of the young mothers said she will never allow her child to participate in anything like that. The question that everybody asks is "if this is so prevalent, all of these kids go every year, why hasn't anybody ever said anything? I don't know. I can't be the only one that's appalled by this. I just feel extremely strong that something has got to be done about this.

End of testimony

36 posted on 09/25/2002 3:42:15 PM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: Sloth
I was there.

Tell us about it!

Did all groups participate in all the activities at the same time? Were you divided up? How would you describe Area II and Area III?

37 posted on 09/25/2002 3:45:29 PM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: EverOnward; Axenolith; Texas_Jarhead; aimhigh; Eva; lepton; inflorida; ladylib; billbears; dead; ...
We have a Freeper who attended the Governor's School in 1992:

I was there.

I attended Arkansas Governors' School in 1992 when this was written (while X42 was running for Prez the first time). I don't have time to respond to all this right now, but I will say the truth is somewhere in the middle. The whole thing was slanted hard to the left, but it wasn't really brainwashing. Overall, I'd say it was a positive experience, but there were also obvious problems with the way it was structured.

If anyone has any particular questions you want a first-hand account on, fire away.

38 posted on 09/25/2002 3:54:41 PM PDT by Aquinasfan
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Meet a future teacher of America. This guy wouldn't trade his Governor's School experience for the world.
39 posted on 09/25/2002 4:02:33 PM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: Aquinasfan
you've got to write us up a little summary of the experience. please.
40 posted on 09/25/2002 4:29:36 PM PDT by Texas_Jarhead
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